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Cultivate skilled, educated labor by opening doors on Manufacturing Day

By: Angie DeRosa

September 20, 2013

The entire U.S. manufacturing industry is coming together on one day, Oct. 4, to open factory doors in an effort to dispel myths about careers in this field, to address the skilled-labor shortage and to raise a collective voice for manufacturing in America.

It is the industry's chance to show enthusiasm and pride for making things in America. Here is some data that can be used in your discussions if you welcome students or others into your factories.

Manufacturing has the highest multiplier effect of any economic sector, according to the National Association of Manufacturers and based on data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In 2012, manufacturers contributed $1.87 trillion to the economy, up from $1.73 trillion in 2011. This was 11.9 percent of gross domestic product. For every dollar spent in manufacturing, another $1.48 is added to the economy.

As the economy struggles to create jobs, the irony is that many manufacturing jobs are going unfilled because hiring companies cannot find skilled workers.

It is a significant issue in the plastics industry. Although there may not be an immediate reward to opening doors to students, it can be viewed as an investment in the future of manufacturing.

Let's rewind briefly to Plastics News' Executive Forum 2013 in Tampa, which we themed The Industry Skills & Leadership Summit, with an agenda focused on the skills shortage and cultivating talent. There, Jennifer McNelly, president of the Washington-based Manufacturing Institute, issued a call to action to the attendees: Get on board with Manufacturing Day. Open your doors and help educate students about careers in this industry.

The collective effort will have surprising, long-lasting effects that many people don't even realize.

At www.mfgday.com, you can see what companies are opening their doors. There is a nice potpourri of companies, nonprofit organizations, colleges, even high schools, offering tours. Some plastics companies, associations and colleges involved include Rodon Group Inc. of Hatfield, Pa.; the Chicago chapter of the American Molder Builders Association; Maryland Thermoform Corp. of Baltimore; Lehigh Valley Plastics in Bethlehem, Pa.; Cerritos College's Technology

Division in Norwalk, Calif.; and Davies Molding LLC of Carol Stream, Ill.

As of Sept. 18, there were 514 events planned from coast to coast. That was up from 457 just two days earlier. Manufacturers are signing on and doing so quickly. The supporting organizations of this event are making a big splash with it because they want a future for U.S. manufacturing, and not just making generic products but elevating products with science and skill. The primary supporting organizations are the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association International, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership and the Manufacturing Institute.

The Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. is a sponsor, as is the Society of Manufacturing Engineers' Education Foundation.

On Oct. 4, six video crews will be out and about across the country, getting footage on these activities, according to Pat Lee, a spokeswoman for Manufacturing Day. One video crew is yet unassigned.

There is participation from the plastics industry, but more will help the cause. Let us know if you plan to take part.

DeRosa is Plastics News' conference director.